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How French can universalism try to be? Afterthoughts on the “Dutch affair”

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

by Nicolas Froeliger, Université de Paris, UFR EILA (Etudes Interculturelles de Langues Appliquées)

As translators, we strive to render meaning, intention and nuance as precisely as possible, with what some used to call fidelity, or, increasingly, loyalty (which is not exactly the same). How is it then, that translation studies fares so bad in translation? Of course, translations of translation studies books there are a-plenty, but are we always satisfied with them? The answer is a blatant no. A simple observation to substantiate this claim: how often are those translated books reprinted, even when they have become classics in their original language?

This is one of the many paradoxes we have to live with in this realm. I myself am both victim and culprit of such a paradox. A few months ago, I was asked to write a small piece on what the French call the “Dutch affair” (more on this below). Publication was meant for a book on the said issue (under the generic title faut-il se ressembler pour traduire?, to be published by “Double punctuation”: www.double-ponctuation.com). And since, as translators, we feel something like an attachment to our native working language, I did write the paper in question in French.

A brief summary of the facts:

  • on January 20, 2021, during Joseph Biden’s oath-taking ceremony, young poetess Amanda Gorman made a tremendous impression by reading her poem “The Hill We Climb”;
  • immediately, publishers everywhere rushed to have her works translated;
  • among them, renowned Dutch house Meulenhoff gave the assignment to another young author: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, and made it widely known;
  • Dutch journalist and social network activist Janice Deul then criticized that decision, deploring the choice of a white woman to translate an African-American woman, triggering an avalanche of reactions;
  • in the face of this uproar, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld gave up the assignment before explaining her reasons in the form of a poem;
  • the world of translation and the general public expressed their outrage. At least in France and French speaking countries (notably Belgium).

A most telling development, one would say… What did I then set out to write, in my French version?

  • That although translators have a special taste for nuance and balanced arguments, resorting to those would be counter-productive here: no matter what one thinks of the state of inequalities the world over, this affair has to be judged in terms of overarching values: universality or fragmentation;
  • That the rich debate on this issue is a sign that the translation profession at large has started to reflect on translation related issues such as this one on its own terms, which is a positive sign regarding professionalization;
  • That translation studies itself, notwithstanding all its diversity, could help the translation community adopt a clearer, broader view on such a subject. One that places openness and, precisely, diversity, above such essentialist, passé reactions such as “why defend someone [Marieke Lucas Rijneveld] who is not even a (real) translator?”;
  • That obviously, the reactions in the profession were much more varied than that, which hints at a yet imperfect connection between research and actual practice in our field. And calls for further investigations on the sociological side of the profession.

The gist of the argument, in even more synthetic form: as in translation proper, universality and reaching out to the other should always prevail other the particular. There was only one problem with the paper I wrote to substantiate this: all of the authors I mentioned (in French) to sustain my argument were conspicuously… French. A few simple questions, then: is it simpler, or more expedient to raise the flag of universality in this particular language, than it would have been in, say, English? Would my paper have been different if I had set out to write it in this language in the first place? Why did this “Dutch affair” create such an uproar in French-speaking countries (and, to the best of my admittedly insufficient knowledge, not elsewhere)? Why (the hell) does translation studies fare so bad in translation? It should after all be the exact opposite!

Other than a long history of provincialism from which translation and translation studies have only recently started to emerge, I do not have solid answers to those questions. I can only suggest that research should tackle them, both for the sake of research as such, but also for the good of the whole profession.

And I will leave the reader with yet two other questions (which I am also asking to myself): to what extent can the article she or he has just read in English be considered a translation of the French original published in book version? And what does it tell us about our definition of translation? Food for thoughts, indeed…

Video game localisation: a new passion for translation trainees?

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

By Loïc de Faria Pires, Ph.D., associate professor in charge of translation technology, dubbing and subtitling classes, University of Mons (FTI-EII)

An introduction to video game localisation and its challenges

Ten years ago, nobody would have suspected that video game localisation would acquire such importance in translation curricula. I mean… how did video game aficionados (the so-called “geeks”) bring about such changes in the way we teach translation practice in order to prepare students for the professional market? Is translation not supposed to be related to technical or literary texts, and are we not supposed to challenge our students rather than ask them to translate such “irrelevant contents” as video games?


Could this shape our trainees’ future professional activity? (Source: personal picture)

Well, to tell the truth, video game localisation is far from easy, nor is it irrelevant. As a matter of fact, the estimated value of the global video game localisation industry was $1.38 billion in 2018, and is predicted to “aggressively increase year-on-year” (Joly, 2020). As for it being “easy”, one should be reminded of famous localisation “fails” observed throughout the years. Several examples can be found in Final Fantasy VII, issued in 1997.

For instance, in this scene, the English wording (translated from Japanese) “Your party awaits upstairs” was badly translated into the Spanish sentence “Su fiesta [sic.] le espera en el piso 2”, instead of “Su equipo le espera en el piso 2”, since Cloud, our favourite hero, did not take part in any “raving” party: his “team” of fellow travellers was only waiting for him in the inn’s bedroom. Of course, some of these errors are funny, and do not have consequences on players’ gaming experience. Yet, in some instances, such problems can lead to confusion for players, hence the necessity of implementing localisation classes in EMT universities, with a view to preparing students to access the localisation market and avoid such problems.

The objective of this contribution will be to describe initiatives in terms of localisation taken by the University of Mons, with a view to better integrate EMT objectives in our translation curriculum.

Video game localisation, translation strategies and EMT objectives

First of all, localisation is recognised as one of the key competences to be taught to students in EMT programmes. Indeed, the 2017 EMT model states that students need to know how to “Translate and mediate in specific intercultural contexts, for example, those involving public service translation and interpreting, website or video-game localisation, video-description, community management, etc.” (p. 8). The 2017 written version of the competence framework also states that localisation is one of the skills to be included in the curriculum of EMT applicants (p. 7).

There are several reasons why localisation should be considered as an independent skill, which is really different from translation, though they share some characteristics. While it is true that both translation and video game localisation require a linguistic transfer from a language to another, several factors which are particular to video game localisation have to be taken into account.

First of all, the very nature of the audience influences the way such texts need to be localised. In the case of video game localisation, the audience is made of players, which need to perform the actions described by a text appearing on a screen. This means that the audience is not passive, since the textual input represents a guide through the universe of a video game. While translation can be target-oriented, this is particularly the case for video game localisation, since players who play the localised version of a game need to enjoy the same experience as players who play the original version. The commercial aspect of video games is of key importance here, since a badly localised game will receive negative feedback from players online… which will hinder the sales. Therefore, the very spirit of the game (including the names of protagonists or places), must be linguistically transferred, without any content loss which could affect the players’ experience.

This would seem relatively easy without any technical constraints. Yet, video games are, as highlighted above, played on a screen, where the number of characters is limited. Though it would be nice to use an entire paragraph to recount Link’s adventures on his way to save Princess Zelda, two main elements make it impossible: the text boxes in which the narrative text or the dialogues appear, and the very scene of the game being played at a determined time. On the one hand, text boxes can only contain so many characters, meaning that the text appearing in the box at any moment has to cover the same content in source and target language. This can prove rather problematic, for instance, in the case of localisation from English into French, the latter usually being more prolific and less concise than the former, which sometimes require people in charge of localisation to be imaginative in order to preserve the meaning while not exceeding character limitations. A second element to be taken into account is the scene appearing on the screen, which can influence translation context. For instance, let us imagine a scene where a character is walking towards a fish market and says, “Oh, I see fish over there”. In such a scene, the person in charge of localising the game into French should be careful to translate this idea by “Oh, je vois du poisson là-bas” rather than “Oh, je vois des poissons là-bas” (which would imply that said fish are alive).

Now that the main challenges of video game localisation have been highlighted, the time as come to describe how we, at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, are currently working to integrate this practice into our translation curriculum.

Video game localisation @UMONS

Considering both the growing commercial weight of the localisation industry and the need for EMT universities to implement localisation teaching in their curricula, we decided to tackle this challenge by implementing several initiatives to help both teachers and students get acquainted with localisation practice.

First initiative: “Gaming and Gamification” group

The very first initiative to be mentioned is our participation in the “Gaming and Gamification” working group. This group is not exclusive to the University of Mons: it came from a collective effort from stakeholders in the Belgian province of Hainaut.

The main objective of this group is to create an interdisciplinary network of companies and services interested in the video game industry within our province and, eventually, the French-speaking part of Belgium, Wallonia.

Our participation in such a project represents a precious opportunity for our university: apart from being the first French-speaking Belgian university to take part in such a large project in the context of the video game industry, this provides us with a unique opportunity to learn from other stakeholders and remain up to date with the latest developments of practices within the video game industry.

Moreover, this project also enables us to develop partnerships with video game companies here in Belgium, which provides our students with internship and collaboration possibilities and helps them build contacts with the professional world.

Finally, we should underline that, while this project mainly involves Belgian stakeholders, we are open to external collaborations. For instance, in the very field of video game localisation, our Faculty of Translation and Interpreting is currently establishing a partnership with the University of Bourgogne (France) to share best practices and learn from each other.

Second initiative: Masters’ theses in video game localisation

The second main initiative we are implementing is directly linked to our students. Last year, we underlined the possibility for them to write a Master’s thesis in the field of video game localisation (i.e. localise a video game or carry out a piece of research in the field of localisation). This had never been done before, and it came to many students as a surprise: they were ecstatic to learn that they did not necessarily had to translate a regular book in the framework of their Master’s thesis.

This year, five students chose to localise a video game for their thesis, either from English into French or from Russian into French. Supervising them represents a thrilling challenge for us lecturers: it is the very first time for all of us. We also have to get acquainted with localisation norms and constraints, in order to guide them properly and help them produce high-quality work.

Two of these students, Alexiane Mahieu and Noéline Urbain, accepted to describe the way they perceive video game localisation, and the reasons why they think localisation classes are crucial to future professionals.

Alexiane: Since I was little, I have always been passionate about video games, and I always played them in my mother tongue: French. This would not have been possible without the work of translators. From dubbing to subtitling, their work is important because it enables many people to enjoy video games, which are nowadays considered as works of art on their own. Most video games are created in English or Japanese, languages that are not spoken by everybody. Yet, the objective of video game creators is to make their game accessible to as many people as possible. Moreover, video games contain more and more content, which makes localisation more and more difficult, with respect to integral dubbing, which did not exist in the video game industry twenty years ago, and texts, denser and more technical than before. This increasing complexity calls for greater abilities, which would make localisation classes essential to all people who, like me, would like to contribute to the development of the field they are passionate about. [Our translation]

Noéline: […] Video games often contain many puns and cultural references that make them impossible to be translated by machine translation. A badly translated game is, at best, not fun to play and, in the worst cases, impossible to understand. It is therefore interesting to teach the fundamentals of localisation to Master’s students to provide them with additional professional opportunities on the translation market. Moreover, localisation tasks differ from what we are usually taught at university, and students would really benefit from a class which would teach them to tackle the numerous challenges linked to video game localisation. When one starts to localise a video game, it is necessary to learn not to exceed on-screen character limits, to know the video game jargon, and, most of all, to manage to adapt contents to another culture. When localising a game, one also benefits from more freedom than when translating a specialised text, which makes it necessary to be able to translate insults or contents that can sometimes be violent […]. [Our translation]

In a nutshell, the students who choose to localise a video game in the framework of their Master’s thesis seem to be aware of the professional opportunities that localisation can provide them with. Furthermore, they provide us with an accurate overview of the main challenges and constraints of video game localisation. Without any doubt, their Master’s theses will be highly relevant and very interesting to read!

Third initiative: LocJam

Last but not least, students in the first year of Master’s were offered to take part in a global initiative in the field of video game localisation: the LocJam project (https://itch.io/jam/locjam-wmhd).

This project was a three-day localisation “marathon” which took place from October 8 (00.01 am) to October 10 (11.59 pm). This worldwide localisation competition consisted, this year, in localising (in our case, from English into French) a ~3500-word video game about mental health. Students were allowed to work in teams (I allowed teams made of up to six students) to localise the whole game in three days. I was thrilled to see that no less than 65 students of my Translation Technology class decided to take part in this project. In the end, the localised text produced by a group of participants (hopefully, participants from the University of Mons) will be chosen to become the official translation of this game!

The texts produced by our students and the feedback they will provide will help us build a coherent and relevant localisation class, based upon their difficulties and the aspects they considered important.

See you in a few weeks for the results!

Conclusion

Through this contribution, we wanted to highlight the relevance of localisation projects and classes within university classrooms. Our main objective was to describe the initiatives implemented by the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (University of Mons) to help students get familiar with the localisation process.

Though we can only initiate students to localisation in the framework of our Translation Technology classes today, we hope that in the future, thanks to all these ongoing projects, we will be able to implement proper and thrilling localisation classes in the years to come!

References

-EMT expert group. (2017). Competence framework 2017. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/emt_competence_fwk_2017_en_web.pdf

Joly, Martin. (2020). An Overview of the Games Localization Industry in 2020 (Andovar blogs). Retrieved from https://blog.andovar.com/games-localization-in-2020.

The use of eTranslation in the tourism industry

Monday, August 16th, 2021

By Pr. Titika Dimitroulia, Professor of Translation Studies, Director of the Translation Sector of the School of French at Aristotle University, Scientific coordinator of the Apollonis project AUTH (Clarin-el), tutor on the University’s EMT programme and Leonidas Kourmadas, Translator in the Greek language department of DG Translation at the European Commission, currently DG Translation Field Officer at the Commission representation in Athens.

Tourism is one of the world economy’s “heavyweight” industries and, according to the World Tourism Organisation 2020 report, “Europe accounts for half of the world’s international arrivals”, with Southern Mediterranean destinations leading the sectors’ European growth (+5 tourist arrivals, +7 tourism receipts, p. 10).

Figure1. UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2020 Edition, p.7.

As might have been expected, the pandemic, played down this growth, but this does not diminish tourism’s long-term importance in the global, and in particular in the European economy. Nevertheless, the pandemic stressed even more the need for sustainable tourism development, which, according to UNEP and UNWTO (2005, 11-12), presupposes optimal use of environmental resources, enhancing of inter-cultural understanding and tolerance, as well as viable, long-term economic operations with fairly distributed benefits to all stakeholders, while ensuring a high level of tourist satisfaction. Consequently, information and communication constitutes the core of sustainable tourism development at all levels, shaping not only a destination’s image and assessment, but also the attitudes and behaviour of those who visit it.

Besides the traditional forms of marketing and communication, today, websites and social media are a prime source of information on tourism experiences and they play an important role in tourists’ decision-making process (Liu, Mehraliyev, Liu & Schuckert 2020). They are equally important in the evaluation of services and help shape the image of individual businesses and destinations, with language playing an important role in tourists’ choices: the dominance of English as a “lingua franca” may be undisputed in tourism also, however, many surveys show that tourists prefer to communicate in their mother tongue and tend to evaluate positively the provision of services in their language. As pointed out by de Carlos, Alén, Pérez-González and Figueroa (2019, 136) in a case study of Barcelona hotel reviews, “even consumers who are fluent in more than one language expressly state that the use of their mother tongue influences their perceptions of service quality (Holmqvist 2011) and will have a positive influence on their evaluation of the service and loyalty (Holmqvist and Grönroos 2012). During the trip, communicating in their native language with tourists who have little knowledge of the local language helps them to feel more relaxed and welcome, especially when problems arise (Cocoa and Turner 1997; Russell and Leslie 2002)”.

The variety of situational contexts in tourism communication, often in relation to the diversity of experiences sought by the various categories of tourists, further emphasise the complexity of tourist communication, which has to be managed in the best possible way by both public policy bodies and businesses. It is therefore a paradox that translation studies only recently started to systematically analyse tourism discourse in the context of specialised translation. Isabel Durán Muñoz points out two possible reasons for this:

Tourism discourse has recently started to be investigated from a linguistic perspective and also to be considered as a specialized translation. This is basically due to two main features: on the one hand, its interdisciplinarity, that is, this field is highly influenced by other disciplines (geography, economics, history, and sport, among others) and employs their terminology very frequently; and on the other hand, its level of specialization, i.e., the recipients of tourist texts are usually non-specialists in the field, what makes the discourse to be close to general language and then, very low specialized. These features have provoked that the tourist discourse had not been considered as a specialized discourse until very recently (2011, 32).

The importance of the tourism sector for Mediterranean countries and in particular for Greece and Cyprus, the key position of multilingual communication and translation and the possible contribution of Machine Translation and especially the EU’s eTranslation, were the starting point for a consultation between me, representing the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and its EMT programme, the Greek Language Department of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation (DGT), and the DGT’s Field Officers in Athens and Nicosia. Our discussion focused on the EU’s wider effort to create a single European Digital Market (“A Europe fit for the Digital Age”), with sustainability as its underlying principle, also through the continuous development of the eTranslation system, which is provided free of charge to public administrations and SMEs in all Member States, as well as on MT’s potential contribution to the development of the tourism sector in Greece and Cyprus.

Two points were of particular concern to us. First, the fact that tourism activities had all but stopped due to the pandemic and that the future could look very different from what we have been accustomed to. However, we were convinced that such changes would not alter the core of tourism intercultural communication, despite any differences in scale and orientation. The second point of concern was the actual role of MT in intercultural communication, which is hotly debated among translators (see ATA 2018) and translation researchers. Τranslation researchers, who have been mostly studying MT and its pros and cons in the context of specialised translation, e.g. law (Wiesmann 2019), have recently broadened the scope of their research to examine new contexts, such as migration (Macías, Ramos, & Rico, 2020) and even literary translation (Toral 2020). On the other hand, the quality of MT and its assessment continues to be discussed often alongside post-editing, and time and effort in its context (Läubli et al. 2019; Toledo Báez 2018; García 2012).

Taking into account these aspects, we decided to organise a seminar on the use of eTranslation, its advantages and disadvantages, aimed at professionals and public authorities of the tourism sector in Greece and Cyprus. That means that we focused on the use of eTranslation by non-translators, with the aim of showing them how to use MT in the most effective way possible in specific communication situations and pointing out other communication situations where translation has to meet the highest quality standards, meaning that the use of MT is inadvisable. The seminar was thus aimed to train people in using eTranslation in possible situations where translators most often are not or cannot be involved. Of course, given the target-group of the seminar, the discussion on quality couldn’t be expressed in theoretical terms, e.g. of equivalence in semantic, pragmatic and textual level, according to House, who adds, in its revisited model, the important parameter of cultural filtering (2014).

A dedicated webpage was created to manage registrations and promote the event on social media. The seminar took place online on 3 December 2020, and was attended by around 70 people from Greece and Cyprus, including representatives of government bodies, research centres, professional associations and businesses of the tourism sector. Translators remained central to this seminar, as experts in multilingual and multicultural communication, who must be consulted in various contexts of the tourism industry and their work is of primary importance. For this reason, we invited John O’Shea, head of FIT Europe’s reflection group on MT, to the panel of speakers, who presented FIT Europe’s view on the pressing need for quality translation in many areas of the tourism sector.

Markus Foti, the head of the DGT’s MT division, presented the rationale behind eTranslation and the way it works. This was followed by two hands-on seminars (conducted by me and Dr. Kyriaki Kourouni, both tutors on the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s EMT programme) with specific scenarios highlighting the potential and the weaknesses of eTranslation. Unfortunately, the seminar was not filmed, as many participants did not give their consent, but all participants received the material of the hands-on seminars.

The aim of the hands-on seminars was to show what eTranslation can and cannot do in tourist communication, focusing firstly on the two parameters of human evaluation of MT, accuracy and fluency, as described in the MQM usage guidelines: “Accuracy addresses the extent to which the target text accurately renders the meaning of the source text […] Fluency relates to the monolingual qualities of the source or target text, relative to agreed-upon specifications, but independent of relationship between source and target.” (Burchard & Lommel 2014, 6; see also Han & Wong 2016; Dorr, Snover, & Madnani 2009); and secondly on the need respectively of accuracy/adequacy and fluency in concrete, often culturally bounded contexts in tourism. Lastly, the seminar aimed to introduce the participants to the inner logic and functioning of eTranslation, so that they are able to adapt their expectations accordingly and, by contributing relevant resources, help enhance its performance. It was stressed from the beginning that the examples used referred exclusively to: (a) communication situations in tourism, where usually no translators are used; and (b) general approaches to draft information, which can be though extremely useful for strategic purposes.

In my seminar, I attempted, firstly, through some simple examples of oral, or written  communication (e.g. seasons’ greetings) to point out that it is sometimes difficult for MT in general and eTranslation in particular to manage effectively even simple cultural elements or context, as can be seen in examples I to III –although it is true that Neural Machine Translation (NMT) deals much better with realia and culture:

Example I

El Το Υπουργείο Τουρισμού σας εύχεται χρόνια πολλά και ευτυχισμένος ο νέος χρόνος

En The Ministry of Tourism wishes you happy and happy New Year

Fr Le Ministère du Tourisme vous souhaite bonne et bonne année

In this very simple example, the system cannot translate accurately the Greek wish “χρόνια πολλά” (literally: “many years”, meaning: may you live long, an expression used for a variety of celebrations, such as religious holidays, birthdays, anniversaries etc.), due to its limited ability to render cultural equivalents –a problem that can be remediated by feeding the system with relevant resources.

Example II

El Το γραφείο μας σας εύχεται καλά Χριστούγεννα και ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος

En Our office wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Fr Notre bureau vous souhaite un joyeux Noël et une bonne année

The system, unlike a translator, cannot distinguish the type of “office” if this is not explicitly marked. However, even if it is explicitly marked, the resulting literal translation may refer to a completely different reality, as is shown in the following example.

Example III

El Το τουριστικό γραφείο μας σας εύχεται καλά Χριστούγεννα και ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος

En Our tourist office wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Fr Notre bureau de tourisme vous souhaite un joyeux Noël et une bonne année

The literal translation of the term “τουριστικό γραφείο” (which means “travel agency” in Greek) into “tourist office” is incorrect, as the latter refers to a public tourist information/service unit and not to a private company. A professional translator, perceiving immediately the context, would have translated the term correctly.

Example IV

El Το Γραφείο Tαξιδίων μας σας εύχεται καλά Xριστούγεννα και ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος

En Our travel agency wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Fr Notre agence de voyages vous souhaite un joyeux Noël et une bonne année

Only if we provide the system with an absolutely clear and culturally neutral text as in the example IV, will we receive a satisfactory translation. Of course, we did not take into account the cases of non-Christian countries and clients, but used concrete examples to highlight the complexity of language even in relatively simple contexts, such as those of seasons’ greetings, and, above all, the scope of the communication: seasons’ greetings addressed to clients and partners, as public communication, have to be translated with both accuracy/adequacy and fluency. Therefore eTranslation’s use needs to meet concrete prerequisites if it is to be helpful.

After this rather disappointing but also enlightening start for the seminar’s participants, I continued with situations where the system can really be particularly useful to professionals and public authorities: e.g. for the translation of multilingual reviews on social media and dedicated websites, on the basis of which they can adapt their policy and visibility actions. In this particular case, eTranslation can be used to get the general gist of reviews or of website content from existing and, even more, from emerging markets. In these cases, eTranslation can be used to get a more accurate translation, compared to the one from other systems, as illustrated by the following example from Romanian into Greek.

Ro Nu recomand

5,0 A apreciat· Doar panorama ce se poate admira din balcon.

Nu a apreciat· Mobilier vechi, patul foarte neconfortabil, usa balconului din lemn si foarte zgomotoasa.

Nu as recomanda sejur aici.

Chicineta vai de ea…

El Δεν το συνιστώ.

5.0 Εκτίμησε· Μόνο τη θέα που μπορείτε να θαυμάσετε από το μπαλκόνι.

Δεν εκτίμησε· Παλιά έπιπλα, πολύ άβολο κρεβάτι, ξύλινη μπαλκονόπορτα και πολύ θορυβώδη.

Δεν θα συνιστούσα να μείνετε εδώ.

Το κουζινάκι της αλίμονο…

The translation of the comment on the kitchen by Google Translate («Η μικρή κουζίνα πηγαίνει από αυτήν», literally: the little kitchen goes by itself), does not make any sense, whereas eTranslation offers an inept translation, which can however be understood.

Based on more examples, I pointed out that, when we cannot check the translation because we do not speak the language, and in these exactly cases eTranslation can obviously be useful, we have however to decide beforehand whether a communication with possible blunders is more important than the absence of communication. Or, in other words, if communication is absolutely necessary, even with some blunders, while, when it comes to public communication, it is always necessary to resort to translators.

For example, eTranslation can be particularly useful to a hotel’s reservation desk, especially when communicating with customers prior to their arrival, for the translation of both customer requests and the hotel’s responses. This kind of communication is rather limited and standardised. While most websites are translated into many different languages and have an extranet for the communication of businesses with customers, the latter often tend to write in their own language. In such cases, eTranslation can be useful, as the relevant topics tend to be rather concrete: for example a celebration during the stay, a booking at restaurant X on day X etc. It is easy to train employees on the system’s specificities so that they can respond to such requests.

It was shown that eTranslation can also be useful in obtaining a general idea of the content of a contractual text, such as the sale contract of a holiday package translated from Greek into French, and of a legal text, such as the Romanian law amendments on tourism, also translated in Greek. However, these translations are by no means official, nor can they be used to conclude an agreement. Finally, we presented examples of gleaning information from foreign websites on Greece’s image as a travel destination, with reference to a Brazilian site with content written in Brazilian Portuguese with no translation into other languages; and also of the translation of informative texts concerning Greece and Cyprus, that can form the basis for new texts promoting these countries in foreign markets.

From the webinar it became clear that, despite its limitations, eTranslation can be helpful in cases where communication is essential or urgent, or when one needs to get the general gist of a text or collect information in order to form a policy or strategy. It can support specific situations of informal communication, as in the case of hotels for example, facilitating the personalised management of clients, while always taking into account and factoring in possible communication blunders. It can also support strategic watch, i.e. the monitoring of tourism developments in many languages, thus allowing public bodies and businesses to shape their strategy and approaches based on diverse, multilingual data. However, under no circumstances can it be used in public and official communication, where only translators can provide high-quality, efficient translations, which take into account the various aspects of communication, especially cultural specificities that are necessary for effective communication in a variety of contexts..

The seminar received overwhelmingly positive reviews and we are currently working on its follow-up, hoping that we will soon have some new elements that can give directions to the practical use of eTranslation in tourism and other sectors. The system’s results will certainly continue to improve, as long as it is constantly fed with relevant resources and we hope that participants have taken note of it and will provide tourist language resources (ELRC-share) to support its development.

References

Burchardt A. & Lommel, A. (2014). Guide to selecting MQM issues for the MT Evaluation Metric. In Practical Guidelines for the Use of MQM in Scientific Research on Translation Quality, http://www.qt21.eu/downloads/MQM-usage-guidelines.pdf.

Dorr, B., Snover, M. & Madnani, N. (2009). Part 5: Machine translation evaluation. In Bonnie Dorr (Ed.), DARPA GALE program report, https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~alavie/papers/GALE-book-Ch5.pdf.

Durán Muñoz, I. (2011). Tourist translations as a mediation tool: misunderstandings and difficulties. Cadernos de Traducão, 27, 29-49. DOI: 10.5007/2175-7968.2011v1n27p29.

FIT Position Paper on Machine Translation, https://www.fit-ift.org/fit-position-paper-on-machine-translation.

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